Short films are dead. Long live micro-budget features!Jul 21, 2022
Short films don’t have the power to launch a film career like they used to. We think the micro-budget feature is the new calling card.
It’s never been easier (or cheaper) to make a beautiful short film with high production values.
But it's harder than ever to transition from shorts to features in the traditional way recommended by experts for decades.
When Kylie started pursuing a career in the film industry over twenty years ago, the prevailing wisdom went something like this…
- Go to film school
- Make a graduate short film
- Screen at a high profile film festival
- Voilà, feature film opportunities galore
So easy, right?
Ha! Filmmaking has always been a tough gig with high barriers of entry, especially for those with marginalized identities.
Unfortunately, hangovers from this simplistic career progression prevail today. It wasn’t even true back then and it’s sure as shit not true now.
While a successful short film may still be a stepping stone to features for a privileged few, it’s practically impossible for most people.
That’s also because technology has democratised filmmaking. The means of production are more affordable and it’s possible to reach a global audience with online distribution.
Short filmmaking is no longer a rarefied artform, it’s mainstream. We think this is a good thing! We love YouTubers, Instagramers, TikTokers and Creators in all their glorious shapes and sizes. Short-form content helps filmmakers explore their creativity, hone craft skills and find like-minded collaborators.
But right now, launching a feature film career with a traditional short film is an uphill battle.
This is not to be all doom and gloom. We see a silver lining.
There’s never been a better time to make a micro-budget feature film!
Take all the time, energy and money you were going to put into your next short film and make a feature instead.
This is even more relevant if you’re thinking about your next short film being a proof-of-concept for a feature. Skip the short film idea and go directly to making it as a feature!
And you don’t need as much money as you think to get started.
There’s some dispute about the definition of “micro-budget” but the general consensus seems to be features with a production budget of less than $300,000.
That’s still a crap-ton of money and out of reach for most independent filmmakers.
Lean Filmmaking is different. We strongly recommend filmmakers spend the least amount of money possible, preferably zero dollars, until their idea has been validated.
We use an iterative method of Make-Show-Adjust Cycles, so it’s easy to start with no (or very little) money upfront.
Rather than splashing cash, we encourage filmmakers to find creative and inventive ways to solve problems.
We exploit lo-fi techniques to test drafts of the entire film with fans. Expensive production values are judiciously added, after the story has proved its value.
We reduce financial risk and costly waste by ensuring the film’s budget is based on results, not guesswork.
If you’ve already made a bunch of shorts, and your ultimate goal is to be a feature filmmaker, don't wait any longer - start making your micro-budget film now.
Long live micro-budget features!
The Art of Lean Filmmaking, book and course available now. Start making an indie feature sooner than you ever thought possible.
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